CVS Focuses on Mental Health, Pilots New Social Worker Model

Leaders at CVS Health (NYSE: CVS) are keeping their eyes on behavioral in 2021 and beyond.  

In its recently released annual Health Trends Report, the health care giant identified the ongoing mental health crisis as a factor likely to define the health care industry overall in 2021.

The prediction comes as the coronavirus has worsened the nation’s behavioral health.

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Deadly drug overdoses hit an all-time high last year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with more than 81,000 fatalities in the 12-month period ended May 2020. Plus, the CDC found that the prevalence of depression was four times higher in June 2020 than in the second quarter of 2019.

Overall, half of all U.S. adults have reported mental health problems related to the coronavirus, and those issues need to be better addressed in 2021, according to Cara McNulty, president of Aetna Behavioral Health and Employee Assistance Program. (CVS Health has owned Aetna since 2018.)

“It’s really important that we continue the conversation around mental health and well-being [and] that we continue to reduce stigma so that people aren’t afraid to seek care,” McNulty said in a video accompanying the report

To make that happen, CVS is piloting a new mental health model at select CVS HealthHUB locations in partnership with Minute Clinic. HealthHUBs are similar Minute Clinics, but they can provide a more expanded list of service and they focus on chronic disease management. 

Back in 2019, CVS said it planned to have 1,500 HealthHUB locations by the end of 2021. However, it’s unclear how many of those locations are participating in the mental health pilot, which is aimed at transforming the way behavioral health care is delivered. 

“What we’re doing is putting licensed social workers in specific locations,” McNulty explained of the initiative. 

Those social workers can then help patients with everything from mental health assessments to accessing behavioral health care.

It’s unclear how far along CVS is with the pilot and in which markets it is testing the new model. However, the health care giant’s focus is a good sign for the behavioral industry at large, helping to solidify mental health’s movement into the mainstream and improving patients’ access to care.

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